A hero is only as good as the villain he has to fight. This old adage has proven true time and time again and Daredevil and Jessica Jones are no exceptions. The villains our two heroes faced are polar opposites on the powers scale but oh so similar on the personality front. The biggest difference that is addressed by the villains is the difference in powers for our heroes and how their powers were used to fight their villains.
Daredevil’s Wilson Fisk is as iconic a villain is it comes. He’s right up there with the biggest and best in the Marvel Universe and is just as about as recognizable as any other villain you could probably mention. Which was why I was blown away when I first saw Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk. He looked very much like the Kingpin but was he ever different as a character! Suffering from a childhood trauma had stopped much of Fisks’ mental maturation, which made him socially awkward and even had him acting out like a child several times. It was a bold take on the character and I couldn’t have loved it more.
But the Kingpin’s own journey was closely mirrored by Daredevil’s. Kingpin saw himself a hero too. He worked his whole life to become powerful and influential so he could save the city he loved from the corruption and the darkness that was consuming it. Of course, he didn’t have the moral compass that Matt Murdock had and so the way he carried out his ‘heroic’ plans was far different than Murdock’s and ended up in a lot of death and violence. Necessary collateral damage in Fisk’s eyes. So, the showdown of the vigilante who struggled to become a hero versus the hero who became a crime lord became an all out war. The separation of the two characters journey’s can be seen in the back half of the season as Wilson becomes more and more the crime lord as he begins murdering more and more people, culminating in that pretty incredible shoot out as he was being taken to prison, while Murdock fully embraced his mantle as the Guardian Devil, which culminates with him finally donning the cowl and throwing down with Fisk.
The very nature of Daredevil gives him a clearer confrontation with his villains. DD’s powers in the show are his echolocation, his ability to see while blind as well as maybe having some heightened strength and agility. So, having a gloves off, no holds barred brawl was always going to be a big factor in the way he battled his enemies. Jessica Jones is the exact opposite in that she is incredibly super strong, so she couldn’t exactly ‘throw down’ with anyone she met on the street. Her villain would have to either be another super strong person, which would seem redundant, or offer her a completely different challenge. That’s where the Purple Man comes in.
Jessica Jones can throw people through walls without breaking a sweat, jump tall buildings in a single bound and throw down with enormous, unbreakable skinned heroes. But none of that matters if your haunted by your worst fears and can’t escape your own nightmares. The pilot episode showcased this brilliantly with the flashes on the subway when Jessica dozes off and the variety of ways they showed her trying to cope with her PTSD… mainly drinking heavily. Kilgrave was an excellent choice in villains because it posed Jones the toughest problem. He was a problem she simply couldn’t punch her way out of. They also added the secondary layer of having Jessica feel the need to save Hope, a character that is meant to represent Jessica’s innocence that Kilgrave stole. This, of course, becomes fitting when she kills herself, literally killing Jessica’s last hope at salvation and the change in her character is dramatic after that.
But another reason Kilgrave was such a good match for Jess was that there were more similarities between the two than you would first think. They did a great job of framing when she has Kilgrave save the family in the hostage situation. Heroism is a new concept to him and there’s even a moment where he truly seem to want to continue down that path with Jessica, but she turns on him. This damns both their fates as she can’t get past her own demons and in the process, makes Kilgrave much worse.
As a personal aside here, I absolutely love how they used Kilgrave simply because his power is so incredible and gets completely downplayed in the Marvel Universe. Yes, they’ve allowed the Purple Man his time to shine in recent years, but the way they showcased him in this show was perfect and a real justification for a great villain with a great power.
Another interesting thing about Kilgrave and Fisk – how similar they were. Both suffered childhood traumas, both of them were shaped into remorseless monsters from it and both became ruthless villains in the end. Can you imagine if Fisk and Kilgrave had met? Would they have worked together? Would Kilgrave have simply taken over Fisk and his empire? I guess that’s the thing about great villains – you’re never quite sure what they’re truly capable of.
When it comes to the rest of The Defenders, I can only hope that they continue the excellent villain roles in the rest of the shows. There’s been leaked information about Luke Cage that I refuse to read and Iron Fist information is only now beginning to come out. But what’s clear is that the villains make the heroes, so they need a good one for both of our heroes. I’d love to see Cage take on someone who is a physical threat for him but also helps mold him into the leader we all know he becomes. As for Iron Fist, I think his die is already cast. He has to introduce magic to The Defenders and I think it only makes sense that it is not only someone larger than life, but that his villain also becomes the villain in The Defenders. With Fisk in prison, Kilgrave dead and Luke Cage looking more like a street level fight, it only makes sense that Iron Fists villain is the one that unites the team. Of course, they could go the complete opposite direction and introduce someone new, but I want to see Iron Fist get his due diligence and this will certainly help in that respect.
Finally, click on thru to page three for the supporting characters and what we can expect moving forward…